Community meeting

Shell tells community meeting that ethane cracker in Beaver County is at peak of employment

Some say the project and the jobs have energized the area; others worry about air pollution

  • Reid Frazier

Reid R. Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Shell’s ethane cracker under construction in June 2019 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Shell's ethane cracker under construction in June 2019 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.  Photo: Reid R. Frazier

Reid R. Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Shell’s ethane cracker under construction in June 2019 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Shell officials told a group of residents late Thursday that they are close to completing a pipeline that will supply the Beaver County ethane cracker. They also said the factory was in peak construction mode, with 6,000 artisans working at the site.

The update came during a public presentation hosted by the company in Monaca, Beaver County. During the presentation, no photography or recording was allowed by the organizers of the company.

Shell officials told the public they have hired half of the 600 people who will work at the plant once it is built. They gave presentations about the plastic products the plant will eventually produce, the charitable giving the company has started in the area, and a new initiative the company will undertake to increase recycling.

The format of the meeting disappointed some activists who attended.

It’s billed as a community meeting, but it’s not a community meeting because no interaction between community members is allowed during the program,” said Terrie Baumgardner of Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community. “The questions are compartmentalized in tables where there are experts from the company.”

Michael Marr, a Shell representative, said the company has held periodic meetings since 2014.

“We like to come and give people the opportunity to engage directly with us,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to come and hear what they have in mind, to give them information, to answer their questions as much as possible.”

The meeting drew about 30 locals, most of whom were curious about the project, which received $1.65 billion in state tax credits.

Erin Kelley, of nearby Mayview Heights, said she’s seen a change in the community since construction began.

“A lot of people are making money that they never could make before, creating sustainable family incomes, (which) we’re excited to see here in Beaver County,” she said. Kelley’s father is a union steam fitter who retired after working at the plant.

Kelley said she was also concerned about the plant’s environmental footprint. It will be the main emitter of volatile organic compounds in the region and will also emit hazardous air pollutants.

“I want to see transparent information on environmental impacts,” she said.

Dave Stewart of Monaco said he was very concerned about air pollution.

“If you look at where they put their plants, it’s always in economically depressed blue-collar areas, and you look at the long-term health effects — it’s very bad,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he was also concerned about the plant’s impacts on climate change – it is allowed to emit as much carbon dioxide as 400,000 cars each year – and the impact of the nearly 2 million tonnes of plastic it will produce. “Plastic is the last thing we need in the world. There is so much plastic in the world’s oceans right now.

But Steve Krizan said the plant would be a net benefit to the region. Krizan, general foreman with the Teamsters, has worked at the plant for two years. He said the money is good and the work is hard. He says the plant has brought many business opportunities to Beaver County.

“It’s changed. It’s got Beaver County out of the ruts of yesteryear, the steel trade, things like that,” Krizan said. “It’s a good change.”